Israel demands a hard line from Iran in nuclear negotiations


Israeli Tel Aviv — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged world power on Sunday to take a strong stance against Iran in negotiations aimed at reviving an international nuclear deal.

Israel is worried that the world’s powers will sit with Iran in Vienna in hopes of regaining the tattered 2015 agreement. Iran hit a tough line last week when negotiations resumed, suggesting that everything discussed in the previous diplomatic round could be renegotiated. Continued Iranian progress in its atomic program has further raised stakes.

The initial agreement, led by President Barack Obama, provided the Iranian government with coveted relief from invalidating economic sanctions in exchange for curbing nuclear activity. However, President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and unleashed it, with strong encouragement from Israel.

The talks in Vienna last week resumed after more than five months of hiatus and were the first to be attended by Iran’s new hardline government.

Western negotiators expressed disappointment with Iran’s position and questioned whether the negotiations would be successful.

Israel has long opposed a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which is not advanced enough to suspend the administration’s nuclear program and is hostile. It states that it has not dealt with what is considered to be Iran’s military activity. The whole area.

Israel’s prominent voice shows that the withdrawal of the United States was a failure, especially without an emergency response plan for Iran’s ongoing nuclear program. However, the new Israeli government remains in the same position as former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, refusing to return to the original agreement and calling for diplomacy with military pressure on Iran.

“I call on all countries negotiating with Iran in Vienna to take a strong policy and make it clear to Iran that uranium enrichment and negotiations cannot occur at the same time,” Bennett told the Cabinet on Sunday. Told. “Iran has to pay for the breach.”

After the agreement collapsed, Iran stepped up its nuclear activity. Iran is currently concentrating small amounts of uranium to a purity of up to 60%. This is a short step from 90% of the weapons grade level. Iran has also spun an advanced centrifuge banned by the Accord, whose uranium stockpile is now well beyond the limits of the Accord.

So far, the Iranian government has shown no signs of retreat. Its chief negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bergery Kani, has suggested that Iran plans to give his counterpart a third list of requests over the weekend. These include the damages proposed after the two-page request last week.

“Violating sanctions, [deal] It needs to be removed immediately, “Baguery Crab told Al Jazeera. “All sanctions imposed or re-imposed under the so-called maximum pressure campaign in the United States should be removed immediately.”

Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, has campaigned to lift sanctions, but his negotiators now feel that they are running their own maximum pressure campaign.

Last week, a UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had begun enriching uranium to a purity of 20% at its underground facility in Fordo, a site banned from enriching.

And over the weekend, Iran said it tested a surface-to-air missile defense system near the Natanz nuclear facility. At the end of Saturday, people living nearby saw the light in the sky and heard a big explosion.

President Joe Biden said the United States has not participated directly in recent negotiations due to Washington’s withdrawal, but the United States is ready to re-enter the deal. Instead, US negotiators were nearby and were briefed by other participants, including the three major European powers, China and Russia.

Israel is not a party to the negotiations, but emphasizes maintaining contact with its US and European allies during the talks scheduled to resume this week.

Israeli spy chief David Balnea headed to Washington on an unannounced trip late Saturday. Defense Minister Benny Gantz departs Wednesday for a meeting between his US counterpart Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was in London and Paris last week to discuss talks with Israel’s European allies.

Bennett said Israel is using the time between rounds to persuade Americans to “use a different toolkit” for Iran’s nuclear program.

The current Israeli government opposes the return to the 2015 agreement and instead seeks an agreement to address other Iranian military actions, such as missile programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon. I am. Israel also supports a “trustworthy” military threat to Iran as leverage.

A senior State Department official said negotiators expected Iran to “show seriousness” at the parley. He said even Russia and China, Iran’s key trading partners, which have traditionally drawn a gentler line in relations with the Iranian government, left last week’s negotiations concerned about the outlook for the deal. ..

“The days gone by are the days when we come to the conclusion that they are not thinking of a short-term return to the JCPOA,” an official told reporters in the United States on condition of anonymity. evaluation. He said Iran could use the negotiations as a cover to continue building its nuclear program and use it as leverage.

European negotiators also expressed dissatisfaction with the Iranians. Senior diplomats from Germany, Britain and France said Iran “fast-forwarded its nuclear program” and “returned to diplomatic progress.”

“It is unclear how these new gaps can be filled in a realistic time frame based on Iran’s draft,” they said.

The Iranian government claims that its atomic program is peaceful. However, US intelligence and international inspectors say Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program until 2003.

By Tia Goldenberg

Associated Press